2017 CEO Light & Warmth Awards:chef Amila wins for Colombo Hilton | Sunday Observer

2017 CEO Light & Warmth Awards:chef Amila wins for Colombo Hilton

18 March, 2018
Amila Botheju, Sous Chef  (Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe)
Amila Botheju, Sous Chef (Pix: Chinthaka Kumarasinghe)

Hilton awarded 12 Team Members with the company’s most prestigious recognition: the 2017 CEO Light & Warmth Award. The annual accolade celebrates Team Members from across levels and geographies who consistently over-deliver on the job and model the company’s values of Hospitality, Integrity, Leadership, Teamwork, Ownership and Now.

This year’s recipients range from chefs and bartenders to managers and laundry attendants, and have gone beyond their duties to provide for fellow colleagues, guests and their communities. That includes supporting colleagues and their families during the natural disasters from the hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico to the wildfires in California.

“Over the last nearly 100 years, Hilton has spread the light and warmth of hospitality to countless guests around the world thanks to our incredible Team Members,” said Christopher J. Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton. “We know that our people are our greatest asset, and that is why we believe it is important to celebrate their contributions. Our 2017 CEO Light & Warmth Award recipients are truly inspiring, purposeful individuals, and it is an honor to recognize them for their tremendous positive impact.”

This year, nearly 1,000 Team Members from across Hilton’s managed and franchise network submitted CEO Light & Warmth Award nominations, and Nassetta and a committee of representatives from across the company selected the 12 recipients. Each recipient received a $10,000 bonus, among other prizes. Hilton has awarded more than $690,000 since the recognition was established in 2009.

Amila Botheju, Sous Chef from Hilton Colombo won this prestigious award from Sri Lanka. The Sunday Observer spoke to Botheju whose arena and domain is the Kitchen. There he is the supreme master ensuring that those who visit the Hilton have a really great time eating the delicious food. Botheju rose to where he is from the very bottom. He said, “I started this career just after school and this was my first job. I completed a diploma in kitchen culinary at the Ceylon and Swiss Hotel School. At Hilton Colombo I did not start with cookery instead I started as a kitchen helper in 1996. I walked in for a kitchen culinary interview but I was not selected. I was not selected for the kitchen culinary staff as the vacancies were over. The interview board told me to come after six months for the next batch of selection for the kitchen culinary staff. Then he said a vacancy existed for a kitchen helper. My only motive at the beginning was to join Hilton so I took over this designation.”

Botheju has been with the Hilton for more than 21 years. “It was my childhood dream and ambition so I joined as a kitchen helper. I got the opportunity to be trained in all the sections and departments of the kitchen during my extra hours. I trained to cook Chinese, Western and Italian recipes. I got the opportunity to select a section and then I selected the Sri Lankan, because I always wanted to uplift and develop our traditional foods and show it to the world. I got the opportunity to join the kitchen culinary and then step by step I came to this position. From my childhood, I used to read magazines on hotels and food as well as attend food exhibitions. I always liked to try doing new things and make sure to do whatever job assigned to me in a proper way. I always think twice before doing anything. I learn new things even from my juniors. My field is culinary but I try to do more than that for the hotel that I work for. I organize many events and carnivals at Hilton. I am thankful to Hilton for bringing me up to this level today. This institution is the reason for my achievement. Today, I am the Sous Chef of the Srilankan Curry Leaf Kitchen at Hilton. I have attended many Food promotions abroad which I believe is a great opportunity given to me.”

Botheju said that he is happily settled in his family life. “Both my children are studying well in leading schools in Colombo and they have passed the government exams too. My wife is very supportive. I teach her my culinary skills during my off-days. Now she can cook as tastily as I. This career is very challenging and sometimes we have to work for hours. Hilton Hotel is like a school and a university. Each day we learn something new. There is a training department as well. I always like to eat in simple restaurants and not at big hotels. If I find something very tasty, I learn about it from the cook. There is nothing that you cannot do out there. If you are determined and have the will power you can move forward regardless of your circumstances and background. You need to sharpen your skills and develop your abilities. What I say is, go up through the ranks and start from the bottom so you know the industry inside out and no one can hoodwink you. Then in addition to your ability, you will have the knowledge, which is absolutely necessary. There are opportunities out there for you,” he said.

The CEO Light & Warmth Award is one of many ways Hilton recognizes and supports its 380,000 Team Members around the globe to ensure they thrive in Body, Mind and Spirit. The company expanded its “people framework” in July with the launch of [email protected], which aims to drive more mindful leadership and transform the way Team Members think about work. [email protected]’s focus on continuous improvement has inspired many new workplace innovations, including new creative ways for Team Members to regularly and authentically thank each other for their performance and loyalty.

New initiatives in 2017 included the creation of a simple recognition app, the opening of a virtual “store” through which leaders “purchase” physical recognition with points and the establishment of the Innovation Award, which celebrates Team Members’ new solutions.